Call to revisit Bill imposing heavier fines for Covid-19 offences

PETALING JAYA: A group of nine associations representing the retail, trade and real estate sectors wants the government to revisit the drastically heavier penalties proposed under amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

In a joint statement yesterday, the group that includes major retail, real estates and shopping mall groups, expressed relief with regards to withholding of the Bill for further review before its re-tabling in the next Parliament session.

The Bill had sought to increase the fines for Covid-19 offences, with amendments proposed to raise the compound amounts from RM1,000 to RM1mil for a corporate body, and from RM1,000 to RM10,000 for an individual.

The Bill, which was tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat last December, was postponed to the next parliamentary session that is scheduled for the end of February.

Arguing that the Bill should be withdrawn for a comprehensive review and consultation with relevant stakeholders, the group suggested that with the evolving Covid-19 situation, and with further understanding of the pandemic through data and science, many of the proposed amendments were already irrelevant and unnecessary.

“Furthermore, almost the entire population has been fully vaccinated and many have already received their booster shots.

“Evidence and studies have proven that Covid-19 is spread predominantly via aerosol, and thus, many of the precautionary standard operating procedures (SOP) can be discarded, such as temperature taking and physical distancing where masks are worn,” they added.

They also pointed that any regulation must be based on equity and fairness, and must be practical and unambiguous.

“We suggest that these amendments be thoroughly studied through consultations with all stakeholders under the Good Regulatory Practice Regulations, and the requisite and due processes of the Regulatory Impact Assessment, be conducted thoroughly.

“We propose that this Bill be withdrawn to conduct this requisite process,” said the statement jointly signed by the Building Management Association of Malaysia, the Bumiputra Retailers Organisation, Industries Unite, the Malaysia REIT Managers Association, the Malaysia Retail Chain Association, the Malaysia Retailers Association, the Malaysian Association of Theme Park and Family Attractions, the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, and the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association.

“The people must not be put in undue fear and face hefty penalties due to impractical impositions, and subjective interpretations leading to the private entity being severely penalised,” it said, adding that the hefty fines encourage abuse and corruption, and spurs underground activities and protection rackets.

“We therefore appeal for this Bill to be withdrawn and the requisite process of Regulatory Impact Assessment be immediately conducted with the view of drafting fair, conducive and genuinely necessary amendments that are effective and meet the objectives of preventing and controlling any spread of infectious diseases, and not only in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is already on the decline.”

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